Monday, October 15, 2012

A Quick Astronomy Question

Q: What beginner telescope would you recommend for a young adult? What field guide or book?

A:  The book I would recommend is the Pocket Sky Atlas.  This was the required field book for my Observational Astronomy class.  Also, I would suggest learning how to use a Skymap.  They can be found here, each month a new one comes out with this months events in Astronomy, and what the sky will be like on a nice clear night.

As for telescopes, there are many factors to consider.

One: What will you be using it for?  How deep into the night sky do you want to see?  I guarantee you won't have a view like the Hubble, but you would be surprised what you can find with a simple telescope.

Two: This is a big one.  Budget.  You can easily spend less than a $1,000 on a new telescope.  If I could go out and buy the telescope I wanted right now I would probably spend $500-$700.  (That would most likely include the accessories that I want)

When you look at telescopes there are several different styles to consider.   I'm partial to reflecting telescopes, but there are also refractors.  Reflecting uses mirrors, Refracting uses lenses.  Both work very well, I'm just more used to reflecting

Another option to consider is the size of the aperture.   Basically the larger the diameter of the barrel the better the view.  Of course, the larger the barrel the less likely you are going to move it a lot. is a good resource for looking into different telescopes.  They have a beginner telescopes section with prices ranging from ~$50 to ~$400.  The other thing to consider is binoculars.  A nice pair can be turned to the night sky and you can see a surprising amount.  Actually the skymap mentioned above lists what you can see with binoculars each month as well.

So the actual recommendation?  Well looking around, I found a reasonable one.  It is a 3 inch reflecting telescope.  It is a table top style, which means it is very small.  But it also comes bundled with a tripod here.  I'm not a huge fan of the table top style, but a lot of that depends on your viewing area and set up.  If you had a tripod, it would be a lot more versatile which is what sold me on it. 

To me, if you go below a three inch telescope you might as well get binoculars.  The biggest limitation to using binoculars is that if you don't have a stand for them, you have a hard time sharing the view.

Good Luck,

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